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The Conversation

17 nonprofits partner to improve financial stability, affordable housing for local ALICE families

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When you look at the average $1.4 million sale price of a single-family home in Hawaiʻi, according to Locations Hawaiʻi, and the state’s minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, it’s not hard to see how life can be a struggle for ALICE households.

ALICE, or "asset limited, income constrained, employed," is a term for working households that are just able to make ends meet.

A new collective of 17 nonprofits is hoping to change that. They were brought together through a partnership between Aloha United Way and Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, and will receive grant funding over the next three years totaling $4.5 million.

Prior to COVID, about 42% of Hawaiʻi families were ALICE or below.

Now that number is estimated to be closer to 59%, according to Michelle Kauhane, senior vice president of community grants and initiatives for the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation. That means the majority of households in Hawaiʻi are asset limited, income constrained, and employed.

"When we talk about ALICE, we're talking about households who have very little savings because they are living paycheck to paycheck. So there's not a lot of reserves," Kauhane said. "How do we strengthen and start to build assets in terms of savings and longer-term stability so that they have something to fall back on?"

The nonprofits involved in the project generally focus on financial stability and affordable housing. Some organizations aim to increase access to public benefit programs and job training. Others help to decrease household costs and develop matching savings programs.

"I hope that we can use some innovation, work together to test some strategy and then by the end of this cohort, be able to say: here's what worked, here's what we had to adjust — and are we able to scale this for success for more families. That's really the goal of collective action," Kauhane told HPR.

Click here for more information about the collective. This interview aired on The Conversation on April 27, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

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